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Welcome to Modules 4 & 5 on Race, Ethnicity and Immigration. The materials for both modules 4 & 5 will be on this one blog posting, but please be aware that there are two assignments spanning these two modules: The first Blackboard exam is due before October 9th, midnight, and the first discussion board writing assignment for prompt 1 is due by October 16th, midnight. As always, you are encouraged to complete assignments way before the deadline. You are responsible for turning in your assignment on time, regardless of technical difficulties.

Module 4: Race & Ethnicity (Sept 26-Oct 2)
Chapter 3: Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration, p. 72-109
Assignment: Blackboard exam 1 (Oct 3-9)

Module 5: Immigration (Oct 10-16)
Chapter 3: Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration, p. 72-109 (cont.)
Video: Documented (2014) (watch entire feature length)
Assignment: Discussion board posting 1: “prompt”

Chapter 3: Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration

bfqrhkjcaaixin6-largeHow does the author, Philip Cohen, define race, while arguing that “biology doesn’t support the classification of people into races” (75)? What is the foundation of our contemporary understandings of race and how does it enact itself in our culture? In the first chapter, the sociological theory called “symbolic interaction” is a good beginning for understanding race. How is this understanding of race established by our historical and institutional processes that define race? What are they? How has the U.S. Census been a party to the construction of racial boundaries (76-7)? How has it changed over time? What are the current racial demographic numbers in the U.S. according to the Census? How does white racial identity relate to our historical and social understanding of race? What does it mean to be white in North America? How are mixed race people classified and understood in this context? (You can optionally address some of these questions in the comments section below in order to practice writing on this topic for our first assignment on the discussion board due October 16th by midnight.)

American Indians

indian-schools-sm“By 2010, there were 2.5 million American Indians counted by the census. That number rises to 5.2 million if we include those who self-identify as American Indian as well as another race” (83). Therefore, American Indians make up less than 2 percent of the entire population. “The largest tribes today are the Cherokee, Navajo and Choctaw, who together account for 40 percent of those American Indians who specify a tribal identity” (84). Historically, during the colonial period, as we saw in the history chapter, American Indian culture was disrupted by white Christian institutions, which set out to break indigenous cultural practices and replace them with white structures, and those was most intimately done through boarding schools and placing indigenous children with white foster families. Native American children today are three times more likely to live in foster homes than other racial groups. By 2010, 22 percent of American Indians lives on reservations or tribal lands, which can be very high in poverty levels. Many social and health issues related to poverty are very prevalent in trial lands and within the population in general: obesity, diabetes, alcoholism, family disruption, early death, suicide, and domestic violence. Indian-owned gambling facilities have provided an income for such communities, generating $25 billion in revenue.

African Americans

lathe-mHistorically, African Americans came to the U.S. through the institution of slavery, which broke the cultural connections with African traditions, languages, and religions. This disrupted family life and cultural continuation. Structural racism since slavery, and continuing today, has impacted the larger African American community, which has shaped the formation of family life. Because many men were unable to get jobs that would support their families, women were often required to work and contribute to the household income; compared to white women who were idealized for being able to be a full time housewife. Many men had to travel in search of work, leaving behind wives and children. After WWI, many workers, around 6 million, left the south in what has been called the Great Migration. Industrial jobs, providing a family wage for those without a college education, was a great boost for the middle class. However, residential segregation was rampant, with the government and industry participating in redlining (racially discriminatory mortgage and housing policies). Manufacturing jobs reached one third of the job market in 1960, and by 1990 it was down to one fifth of workers, and today, it is just one-tenth of jobs. This decline especially hurt black communities. Currently, there is a large black middle class, yet, overall, poverty persists. African Americans have the highest rates of poverty of any major racial-ethnic group. Poverty impacts all aspects of live, including diminishing the marriage rate, as marriage currently is viewed as a crowning accomplishment after financial security is established to some degree. Men without jobs do not provide good prospects for marriage, as women will consider having to take care of their spouses, on top of any children they may already have. In 2011, while 52% of the total population was married, about 32% of the black population was married. Besides lack of employment, imprisonment impacts one out of four black males, with the subsequent rippling effect that impact those family and community members related to the individual. Thus, a great deal of black children are impacted by having an incarcerated parent. Therefore, extended families, and grandparents, become important support for taking care of children in the situation of absent parents.


“At more than 50 million, Latinos are the largest minority group in the country and quickly growing” (93). The majority are Mexican origin (63 percent), followed by Puerto Ricans (9 percent) and Cubans (4 percent). However, there are Latinos in the U.S. from all of the central and south american countries, with varied histories of coming to this country. For example, what historical conditions create these top three groups of immigrants listed? And of course, Mexicans have been a part of this country from the very beginning, as the southwest was originally part of Mexico that was annexed by the United States after the Mexican-American War in 1848. “Puerto Rico was also annexed–first as a U.S. colony and later as a partly self-governing commonwealth–when Spain ceded the island to the United States in 1989” (93). Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917. After WWII, many of them migrated to New York and New Jersey in search of work. Because of the differential history with colonialism and segregation in Latin American countries, their understanding and relationship to racial and cultural mixing is different than the white dominated U.S. with its history of strict racial segregation, outlawing such practices as interracial marriage until 1977.

Asian Americans

Today the U.S. population is 6 percent Asian. The largest groups are the Chinese (23 percent), the Philippines (20 percent), and Indian (18 percent) (97). Because of restrictive immigration policies and decades long wait lines, immigration slots are mostly reserved for professionals, students, or family members of people already established, this contributes to the stereotypical idea of “the model minority.” Confucian religious background contributes to an emphasis on schooling, related to the historical Confucian exam system. Only 3 percent of Asian Americans drop out of high school, compared to 8 percent of the total population. But this association of Asians with schooling is more likely an association between class privilege and educational access and achievement. Also think about how geography plays into immigration, with Asians at such far away distances that it becomes very difficult for them to gain access to the U.S. compared to Latin America, which is closer and shares a land border.


“At 13 percent, the proportion of the U.S. residents born in another country is higher than it has been since 1010” and if you include Americans whose parents were born elsewhere, it is twenty-five percent (100). Immigration laws are central in shaping the demographics of various immigrants groups. The 1965 change in policy was a federal shift that moved away from maintaining quotas of different racial groups so that whites would maintain certain percentages. Be sure to overview and understand the significance of the following laws and policies:

For our class assignment, please watch the feature length version of Documented (2013). In this documentary it follows Jose Antonio Vargas, who began his immigrant journey at age 12, when he was sent to the United States from the Philippines by his mother to live with his grandparents in Mountain View, California. After attending San Francisco State University, Vargas pursued a print journalism career — landing jobs at newspapers in San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York City, and Washington D.C. for the Washington Post — all the while, managing to keep his true citizenship status a secret.

You can find the video on Netflix:

Besides immigration restrictions, the U.S. government restricted racial groups from intermarriage as a means of keeping the white race pure. All states enacted rules against whites marrying other racial groups. There were also hypo descent laws, or one-drop rule, where only whites without any other “blood” of different racial groups were considered white. This would force mixed race individuals to identify as their non-white descent, or else “pass” as white. It was not until the Supreme Court case ironically named Loving v. Virginia, that these bans on interracial marriage were struck down in 1975.



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Welcome to Module 3: History of the Family (Sept 19-25). In this section we will read Chapter 2: The Family in History, p. 32-68 and watch the video The Way We Never Were (2010) by Stephanie Coontz.

Coontz is a faculty member at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., and the director of research and public education for the Council on Contemporary Families. She has published extensively on the topic of marriage and family life and is the author of several highly praised books, such as The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap and Marriage, A History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage.

This section of our course overviews the historical background to our understanding of American families and how we can understand the family as an institution.

Family Types and Terms

The chapter sets out to define different anthropological terms of different family types. Be sure that you can define all of those variations:

  • Monogamy
  • Polygamy
  • Patrilineal
  • Matrilineal
  • Patrilocal
  • Matrilocal
  • Patriarchal
  • Matriarchal

Origins of the American Family

Colonial America (before 1820)
“From the settlement of Europeans through the early nineteenth century, American family history was primarily the story of three interrelated groups: American Indians, White Europeans, and African Americans” (39).

The clash between White European settlers attempting to dominate a land occupied with indigenous peoples was a bloody battle of occupation. Europeans established their institutions and families structures, and Native Americans were forced into these traditions through boarding schools and enforced Christianity. Their own practices such as language, religion, and family traditions were banned. The chapter points out that a prominent aspect of Native families was that many were matrilineal, where people were primarily considered descendants of their mothers rather than their fathers (40).

For the White colonial people, marriage was a practical arrangement, more for bringing people together to work and survive together, not about love and affection. Women came with a dowry, which was desired almost as much as the wife was. Women provided labor and were completely dependent on their husbands, establishing a situation ripe for abuse. When a woman was married, she no longer had any rights at all, “under the legal doctrine of coverture, which meant that the wives were incorporated into their husbands’ citizenship” and he had complete legal control over her (41).

Children were desired more for their labor than their future prospects. Children worked in the home, on the family farm, or were leased out to work for other people (41).

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 4.31.44 PMBlacks, stolen from their lands in West Africa, were brought to the country as slave labor, where their ability to structure their own families was broken. Slave owners could trade and sell slaves regardless of their relationship to other members. Indeed, they were often raped by slaves selected by the owners, in order to selectively breed, as well as raped by the owners themselves, as they were his property, as much as his white family was. Dorothy Roberts overviews how black bodies were used in the beginning of the century in many medical experiments, as forced labor in prisons as well as plantations, and sterilized against their will later on, in her book, Killing the Black Body.

The Emerging Modern Family (1820-1900)

Great changes took place during the emerging modern period, as the country transitioned from the colonial past into the industrial period. Men and women maintained roles that were more and more separated under this economy, coming to be called “separate spheres” (43). How does the author detail the conditions of separate spheres? How did it develop?

For Asian and Mexican migrants, they were put to work as laborers, but often not allowed to bring women with them (for Asian workers), so that they would not put down roots in the country and were expected to leave. Many anti-Asian laws were established to keep them from becoming citizens, marrying whites, or bringing over women.

The Modern Family (1900-1960s)
“In 1900, the typical man married at about age 26, and the typical woman at 22” (53). Men would work and perhaps become boarders with another family that rented rooms, while women would stay with this family until they married. Towards the end of this time period, men were given a family wage, which rather than being the norm, was an usual time in out history overall, but became an expectation that we still think of as a standard from which we are slipping.

 New Family Diversity (1960s-Present)

Since this time period, the chapter overviews many changes that have transpired within the American family. What are they and how did they develop? Define:

  • The Baby Boom
  • changes in household technology
  • social safety nets
  • women’s legal and economic rights
  • changes in household demographics
  • the role of children in the family

OPTIONAL comments: 
In the comments section below, write your response to the chapter and questions you would have for your classmates. What stood out to you? How does this history reflect, or not, your own family history?

Welcome to Module 2: How do Sociologists Look at the Family? (Sept 12-18). In this section, we will read Chapter 1: A Sociology of the Family, p. 2-29. We also have the sociological autobiography on due on September 18th by midnight. You are always encouraged to turn your work in before the deadline. See the instructions for the assignment on the discussion board. Incorporate and cite Chapter 1 in your autobiography assignment.

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1: A Sociology of the Family

Chapter 1: A Sociology of the Family opens with a discussion of how very divergent individuals have discovered each other through DNA tests. Even though they identify as different racial groups or come from very different communities, such DNA tests bring them together based on very distant relatives, making us question: what makes a family? The opening also talks about the importance of pets for American families, even virtual ones that have been created to keep seniors company. Has your family taken a DNA test? does your family have a pet that you consider family? What percentage of American families have the same pets that you do? We want to make sure that we include statistics in our autobiography, as they help us understand the percentage of the population that relates to various demographics that we fit into. Always make a note of the statistics in the textbook, as the exams will focus on this type of information. For example, what percentage of people live alone, according to the textbook?

“In the simplest definition, families are groups of related people, bound by connections that are biological, legal, or emotional” (4). However, the textbook talks about what the label “family” means to people when they refer to individuals outside of the legal definition, what does it say? The author defines the family into three different types. What are these types and their definitions? What are the legal implications of these various definitions?

The U.S. Census

Understanding the work of the U.S. Census is centrally important for sociologists, because this provides the main government collected statistical information that we have on American families. The section in the chapter on the U.S. Census (p. 9-11), tells us that the U.S. Constitution in 1789 ordered that the population be counted every ten years, which is a huge feat for a country as large as ours. In 2010, the Census cost more that $13 billion and employed more than a million people (p. 9). How has the Census defined families, and who was left out of the definitions? What other demographic information is not captured by the Census questions, such as mixed race people? Has your family ever answered the Census?

istock_000020584967medium-portrait-of-soldier-in-uniformThe Family as an Institutional Arena

The family is an institution, just like the military or the government or the church. This means that there are standards of expectations created and this institution interacts with other institutions, and creates expectations for individuals’ behavior. How does your family both conform, and not conform, to the typical expectations of family and the various roles that each member plays? How has your behavior as the child in the family both upheld family expectations, as well as challenged them?

How have the other social institutions impacted with your own family, as the chapter discusses in relation to the state and the market (economy)? How has religion, the military, or the health care industries impacted your family and its history? Incorporate this into the discussion on your sociological autobiography.

The Family in Sociological Theory

Sociology has a foundation in theories established by theorists prominent at the very beginning of the discipline, over a hundred years ago. These theories provide a framework for sociological understandings and approaches, and so it is important to understand what these theories are and apply their in your understanding of the social world. Do any of these theories help explain your own family dynamics? How do these theories provide insight into your own life that you may not have considered before?

  • The consensus perspective: “projects an image of society as the collective expression of shared norms and values,” also known as “structural functionalism” and based on the work of Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) (16).
  • The conflict perspective: “opposition and conflict define a given society and are necessary for social evolution” (17). This perspective is most closely associated with the theorist Karl Marx (1818-1883).
  • The feminist theory: “seeks to understand and ultimately reduce inequality between men and women” (18).
  • The exchange theory: “sees individuals or groups with different resources, strengths, weaknesses entering into mutual relationships to maximize their own gains” (20).
  • The symbolic interaction theory: this theory focuses on the roles people play in their life (daughter, student, teacher, manager) and how they interact with other individuals to uphold these various roles (20-21).
  •    The modernity theory: “concerns the emergence of the individual as an actor in society and how individuality changed personal and institutional relations”(22).

By using these different theories, what insights do you learn about your own family and those in your community? The chapter also includes two other perspectives, not necessarily theories, “demographic perspective” and “life course perspective.” What information do these perspectives provide about family life?

Studying Families

1375381914372The chapter overviews various methods that sociologists use to gain their information and data about U.S. families. These methods were:

  • sample surveys
  • longitudinal surveys
  • in-depth interviews
  • observation
  • time use studies

Be able to define and understand how each of these methods collect data and what kind of insight each method provides, as well as the information that each method would not capture. Which method would be best for studying various social issues related to the family? If you were going to do a historical analysis of your family, what method would you use and why?

OPTIONAL comments:
In the comments section below, share with us your response to the topics covered in this chapter and how you would use these perspectives to gain further insight into your own family dynamic? How would these theories help you understand families that come from very different backgrounds than your own? What stood out to you about the chapter?

sociologyWelcome to the first module in our online Sociology of the Family course for Fall 2016. This week, our objective is to understand what sociology is as a discipline, the perspective it has, and how it relates to the family. We will want to establish our understanding so that we can apply it to our first assignment in the next module, where we write a sociologically informed autobiography of our lives and demographic information.  According to the American Sociological Association:

“What Is Sociology?

  • the study of society
  • a social science involving the study of the social lives of people, groups, and societies
  • the study of our behavior as social beings, covering everything from the analysis of short contacts between anonymous individuals on the street to the study of global social processes
  • the scientific study of social aggregations, the entities through which humans move throughout their lives’
  • an overarching unification of all studies of humankind, including history, psychology, and economics”

While sociology is similar to, and may incorporate information from these other fields like psychology and economics, how is it different? What is the difference between sociology and psychology?

While psychology focuses on the individual, their brain functions, and how they exist in a vacuum, or maybe consider their relationships to their parents, sociology studies people in relationships to other people, group relations, and especially, POWER, and how it is exercised through social institutions. What are social institutions? List a few and think about how each one of them create conformist behaviors.

Three of the most important organizing concepts in sociology are: Institutions, Power, and Demographics. 

Religion confusion
Health Care
The Family

Institutions and the Family:
Thinking about these institutions, how do they constrict behaviors and beliefs as they relate to the family? How does schooling impact the family? How does religion impact the family? How does the government constrict the family? How does the military create family structures? How does the family interact with healthcare? How have these institutions shaped your own family? This will be the information that you will write about in your sociological autobiography in the next module.

Institutions and POWER:
How do each of these institutions exercise power over and between people? Power is a central organizing concept as we look at all social relationships, because power is a dynamic between all human interactions and how institutions structure human behavior. How do schools exercise power? How does religion exercise power? How does the government exercise power? How does the health care system exercise power over people?

The sub-groups we are born into, and the bodies in which we inhabit, shape our relationship to others because social aspects and power relationships have been placed over natural embodies states, such as ethnicity, race and gender. Ethnicity is one’s national identity (country into which one was born), one’s national identity which one identifies, if not within the country that one lives in (i.e., immigrant family), and the related cultural aspects of this nation-based identify (food or religion practices).  Race is a social concept that has no biologically proven aspect, but has become an organizing concept in society. People are placed into different racial categories, but these categories are based on the history of the country and how this country has related to certain groups. It does not point to a reality of racial differences, which becomes apparent when we try and understand the racial boundaries and overlaps between groups. For example: “Asians” is a term in the U.S. that captures people that come from dozens of different countries, have different nationalities, cultures, languages, and include all skin colors and races, from black to brown to white, yet in the U.S., they are called by the same term and therefore the treatment and understanding of this group is organized by this categorization. Yet, the categories based on race, ethnicity, and gender have huge impacts on how other people will treat us, and even how we understand ourselves. How have you been taught what ethnicity and racial categories you fall into? Did your parents teach you? Did your school or friends? Did the T.V.? How has your own ethnicity been exercised inside the house and in relation to other institutions? (i.e., how does one exercise their Asian American identity inside the military? Inside school?) How would you be different if you were the opposite gender? How do you perform your gender identity through the clothes you wear, your behavior, and your interests?

In the U.S., which groups are in power? How does that power manifest itself in structural ways (through institutions and laws, for example) and how does power manifest itself through interaction between two people (a teacher and a student, segregation of races, how men and women interact). In whichever categorization of people, some are empowered socially through our history and social institutions. For example, which gender is more empowered in our society: men or women? How is this manifested through institutional structures? How is this created through interpersonal interactions: men and women in the family? When someone goes against these power structures, how are they punished? What happens when someone wants to be outside of the binary of men and women and wants to consider themselves transgender or “genderqueer” (not identifying as strictly woman or man but a mixture of the two). We often do not explicitly speak of power, but in this course, we will want to examine this as a central organizing concept, because it is not only dividing people into different groups and categories, but then assigning supremacy and preference to one of these categories, over others: Men and women, whites and blacks, Americans and Mexicans, and rich and poor. List the different groups you belong to and which ones are dominant and which ones are marginalized? How does it shape your life to come from the dominant white racial group in the U.S.? How would your life be different if you were a different race? How does it shape your relationship to school when you come from an immigrant family?

Please do think about these issues as we prepare for our first assignment where you will list all of the ways in which you fit into different social institutions, demographic categories, and how power is exercised through your life.

OPTIONAL comment response:
You have the option after you have set up your account, to leave a comment in the section below, and respond to some of the questions that have been addressed in this module. Also, you can provide a response to a classmates’ comment. What questions do you have from this module? What would you ask your classmates? The comments section below is a space in which we can communicate with each other based on the ideas expressed in this module. Also, feel free to find other information online and post links to additional information that you found useful.

The field of Sociology  by
What  do Sociologists do? By the British Sociological Association


On Tuesday, December 8rd, we will cover the reading “Chapter 1: Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover: Media Ideologies and Idioms of Practice,” by Ilana Gershon, in her book The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting Over New Media. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010. You can see the Prezi here.

We will also cover the next reading:  “Chapter 2: The Capacity to Live Alone.” Eric Klinenberg, Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone. New York: Penguin Press, 2012. See the Prezi here.

1. Define some sociological issues (institutions, power) or questions around the issue of what technologies (internet, smart phone) people use to break up.

2.  How will age and gender (demographics) factor in with the technologies people use to break up? Create 2 discussion questions.

3. Define some sociological issues (demographics) or questions around the issue of people living alone more often. What contributes to this sociologically?

4. Define some sociological issues (institutions) or questions around the issue of people living alone more often. What contributes to this sociologically?

5. Define some sociological issues (power) or questions around the issue of people living alone more often. What contributes to this sociologically?

Week 11: Tuesday, November 17

On Tuesday, we have no class, and you can spend the time preparing for the exam and the two remaining groups can prepare their presentations. Groups should avoid creating presentations where they are reading lots of words on the screen. For these final presentations, it would be best to just do them as a leaded discussion, so that the classmates can also talk about the materials. Never ask opinion questions, instead, make sure questions are sociological in nature.

On Thursday, the exam will be at the same time as class, and you can take it on any computer and log into Blackboard. You will find the exam button on the left menu option side. The exam will appear only during the class time. There are 50 multiple choice, true/false questions, and they will come in order one at a time, with no backtracking. Your score should be available immediately. If you have any problems, email me, but I may be unable to respond right away.

Welcome to Week 9 of class. On Tuesday, November 3 Group 3 will lead us in a discussion of the assigned reading chapter 2: “Mitad Alla, Mitad Aqui: Half There, Half Here,” in the book Intimate Migrations: Gender, Family, and Illegality Among Transnational Mexicans, by Deborah A. Boehm. We will also watch the documentary Documented, on both Tuesday and Thursday. (I have cancelled the reading assigned for Thursday. I am also canceling the two remaining quizzes, unless there are objections). Documented will be the replacement material (instead of Thursday’s reading) that will be on the exam.

Group discussion questions (find brief info online in a few minutes, and post links in comments section)
Group 1: What is the Dream ACT?
Group 2: What are the various solutions to gain some legal status for undocumented migrants in the U.S.? What was Jose’s solutions?
Group 3: Describe the process of gaining citizenship in the U.S. in general (types of visas, wait, limits, etc.)
Group 4: The overall costs of gaining citizenship or green card?
Group 5: Anecdotal stories of the process covering a range of examples.

In the News
Red Tape Slows U.S. Help for Children Fleeing Central America

For this week in class, we will be watching two documentaries about families that are formed through surrogacy and international adoption. The first documentary is Google Baby, a movie about what happens when pregnancies are outsourced internationally, demonstrating the divide between rich and poor nations and people.

On Tuesday, we will watch the documentary Wo Ai Ne Mommy, about a New York family that adopts an older daughter from China. While older children are unusual for adoptions, this child is able to express her culture shock and adjustment to her new family.

NYTimes: Coming to the U.S. for baby, and Womb to Carry It: Foreign Couples coming to America for Surrogate Pregnancies

China to End One-Child Policy, Allowing Families Two Children

It’s the 7th week of class, and this week we will be talking about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Families (LGBT). On Thursday, October 22, we will have guest speaker Dr. Brian Frank talking with us about his own same-sex, trans-racial family. On Tuesday, group two will overview the assigned readings listed below. Everyone should read chapter 2, and the two shorter articles linked below. Here is the Prezi for the book License to Wed.


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